House Republicans approve impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Tuesday’s vote was the second attempt to impeach the official, a move that is unlikely to prosper in the Senate

Alejandro Mayorkas
The Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas.NATHAN FRANDINO (REUTERS)
Macarena Vidal Liy

Second time was the charm, by a single vote. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has succeeded in approving, by the slimmest of margins, its long-held ambition to impeach one of its great nemeses in the Biden administration, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. It is, above all, a political gesture that will have no consequences for the head of U.S. immigration. The initiative must now be sent to the Senate, where it has no prospects of prospering, given the Democrats have control of the Upper House.

A total of 214 Republican representatives voted on Tuesday to punish Mayorkas on charges of willfully refusing to enforce border laws and breaching the public trust by making false statements to Congress. The entire Democratic bench and the three Republicans who had joined them in last week’s vote — a total of 213 representatives — voted against the move.

This is the first time in 150 years that members of Congress have voted in favor of impeaching a member of the government. The U.S. Constitution provides this option for cases of treason or equally serious crimes.

Mayorkas denied any wrongdoing and argued that the problems at the southern border — where there was a record-high number of irregular crossings from Mexico into the United States in 2023 — were due to the problem-plagued immigration system the Biden administration inherited from the former government. Last week, House Republicans blocked the passage of a bipartisan bill that combined aid to Ukraine and Israel with immigration reform involving a much tougher border control regime. Democrats argued the Republicans had vetoed the measure in order to make immigration a top issue during this year’s presidential campaign.

 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on January 8.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on January 8.John Moore (Getty Images)

The House will deliver the impeachment articles to the Senate next February 26, when the Upper House resumes activity after a two-week break that began on Tuesday, after it approved a bill to provide $95 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel.

The vote on Tuesday was in doubt until the very last moment due to the snowstorm in the northeastern United States that has caused delays and flight and train cancellations. The Republicans have a slim majority in the House — just seven more seats than the Democrats — and any absence, or change of opinion, could mean a failure. In the minds of all of them was last week’s fiasco, when a miscalculation of the “yes” votes they were counting on led them to rush a vote that they ended up losing because three of their own voted against it.

On Tuesday, top Republican Steve Scalise — who had been on leave last week for cancer treatment — joined the ranks of those in favor of impeaching Mayorkas.

The spike in irregular migrants has made immigration one of the most important campaign issues in the November presidential election. Last year saw a record-breaking 2.4 million illegal arrivals, up 14% from the previous year. In December, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended nearly 250,000 people who tried to cross the border illegally, the highest number in decades. But in January, crossings dropped by nearly half, according to data released Tuesday by CBP.

Immediately after the impeachment vote, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the move against Mayorkas. “History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games,” he said in a statement released by the White House.

“The same Republicans pushing this baseless impeachment are rejecting bipartisan plans Secretary Mayorkas and others in my administration have worked hard on to strengthen border security at this very moment — reversing from years of their own demands to pass stronger border bills,” Biden continued, referring to the bill’s failure last week. “Giving up on real solutions right when they are needed most in order to play politics is not what the American people expect from their leaders.”

In a separate statement following the vote, House Speaker Mike Johnson — a Republican who was visibly pleased by the outcome — argued that Mayorkas “has willfully and consistently refused to comply with federal immigration laws, fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history.” “Alejandro Mayorkas deserves to be impeached, and Congress has a constitutional obligation to do so,” he added. “Next to a declaration of war, impeachment is arguably the most serious [...] we have treated this matter accordingly.”

House Democrats, constitutional experts and Mayorkas’ predecessors in office have condemned the impeachment vote. They accuse the Republicans of taking what was just a difference of political opinion and turning it into a crime worthy of legal punishment. They also claim that there was no sign that the Secretary of Homeland Security had committed any crime punishable by impeachment.

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